Best Sniper Rifle Scopes of 2018 & Buying Guide

If you’re a long range shooter, whether it be for the military or for personal usage, you’re going to want to consider buying a scope for your sniper rifle. Buying a scope adds a whole lot of versatility and range to your shooting, and it’s generally considered impractical to try shooting long distance without one.

Buying a scope, however, is easier said than done. Scopes are complex little devices with a lot of different bells and whistles, and some of them are really expensive. You’re going to need to know what’s what when you’re buying a scope and that takes a bit of research – whether you’re looking for a high-end rifle scope or a long-range air rifle scope (which is preferable for snipers) then you’ve found the right article.

What makes a good sniper rifle scope?

A lot of guns are sold without scopes, which is surprising considering how incredibly useful they are (companies have realized the profit that comes from selling parts separately, as well.) Metal sights have been used for sniping immemorial, so it’s strange that lately they’re becoming less popular to include with a gun.

This means that not every scope will work well for every gun. There are a few important things to remember when buying a sniper rifle scope.

Reading your scope is the first thing you’ll need to know or you won’t know what you’re buying! Fortunately, it’s pretty simple. There are two sets of numbers on a scope reading, split by an x in the middle.

For example, 3-9x35mm. This means that the scope’s magnification (the first set of numbers) can be adjusted from 3 to 9x, and the diameter of the scope’s objective lens is 35mm. We’ll go into more detail about your objective lens in a little bit.

When buying a scope, determine your shooting style, what environment you’ll be in, the distance you’ll be shooting at and the light you’ll be in.

Leupold Waterproof VX-6

Leupold Waterproof VX-6

How much magnification should I get?

That depends on your target and the distance you’re at. If you’re doing the close-range shooting, say shooting local game in a forest such as deer that you’re comfortable being close to, you won’t need too much magnification. In fact, for close-range shooting, too much magnification can be a hassle.

A 4x scope would likely satisfy someone who’s hunting game near to them, whereas someone who’s going to be shooting over 1000 meters away is going to want something with at least 9x magnification.

Fortunately, magnification isn’t always static and you can buy different types of scopes.

Variable, or adjustable scopes, are great for snipers because you can adjust the magnification with a flick of a finger. Scopes get some pretty crazy magnification ratings – above 30x even on standard civilian models – so as a sniper, an adjustable scope is probably going to be your best bet.

How big of a lens should I get?

US Optics ER-25

US Optics ER-25

The objective lens of your scope plays a big factor in a few different areas.

A bigger objective lens allows more light in and improves the clarity of your visuals, and are therefore ideal for people who aren’t always going to be shooting in the bright of day. However, they aren’t really necessary for people who are going to be shooting with a small range of magnification.

Huge objective lenses can cause a few problems, though. The bigger they are, of course, the heavier they are, which can create problems in mounting them and maintaining a proper form when you’re shooting. Plus, a huge lens on a small gun is just going to get in the way and can impede the ease with which you can make adjustments.

What’s up with the different reticles?

The reticle is the pattern that’s overlaid on the scope that you use to aim; the crosshair pattern that most people (or most Call of Duty players) think of when they imagine gazing through a scope.

There are three main types of reticles.

  • A duplex reticle is the most common type of reticle and is just a basic crosshair; two lines intersecting at a perfect angle that are thin close to the middle and thicken out closer to the edges.
  • The mildot reticle is an improvement on the duplex reticle and is great for a few reasons. Using a clever design scheme and placing dots at certain intervals over the thin part of a duplex reticle, the mil dot allows the shooter to determine the distance of their target (assuming they know the target’s size.) Knowing the distance of your target allows you to make adjustments for distance, elevation and the wind to improve accuracy.
NightForce ATACR

NightForce ATACR

TIPS: Mildot reticles are great for snipers because, well, sniping is all about distance. One of a sniper’s worst foes is the wind and the change in elevation between them and their target, and a mildot helps eliminate that factor.

  • BDC, or bullet drop compensator, reticles are quite interesting and are increasing in popularity. A BDC reticle allows you to make adjustments for elevation between you and your target without actually having to manually adjust your scope’s settings! They do this by implementing a series of lines just beneath the center of the standard duplex reticle.

TIPS: BDC scopes aren’t great for snipers because the accuracy is greatly hindered at distances of much more than 500 meters.

Focal planes?

There are two focal planes available for most scopes, either FFP or SFP.

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    Second focal planes (SFP) allows the reticle to stay the same size when you adjust the magnification of your scope. This is great because it allows you to maintain a similar visual as you try to keep your target locked on.
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    First focal planes (FFP) aren’t used nearly as much as SFPs but are much better for snipers. At close range, FFP reticles can be quite difficult to see, but they’re very useful for tracking a target at a far distance.

1. Leupold Waterproof VX-6 7-42x56mm Side Focus Rifle Scope Review

Leupold Waterproof VX-6

Leupold Waterproof VX-6

This entire Leupold series can suit a variety of snipers, but this one’s a particularly impressive contender from the line. Look at the magnification rating! 7-42 times magnification means that this scope`s intended for snipers down to the core; the minimal magnification is something that a lot of close-range shooters don’t even need to use.

The scope uses a beautiful MOA reticle. This reticle has dots for both wind and elevation compensation so long distance shooters need not fear the environment as much as they would with a less well-designed scope.

The scope is made with beautiful glass that allows a huge amount of light in while minimizing the chance of glare or reflection. This means you can snipe at dawn and dusk with minimal loss of light.

The simple yet ridiculously effective design paired with a solid aluminum body make this one of the best, most reliable scopes that you can hope to set your sights on.

Pros

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    Great, very impressive range of magnification
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    Uses an MOA reticle that compensates for both wind and elevation
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    Great objective lens lets in tons of light
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    Made of sturdy materials

Cons

  • Simply cannot be used for any close range shooting

2. NightForce ATACR 5-25x56mm F1 ZeroStop .1 Mil-Radian DigIllum PTL Review

NightForce ATACR

NightForce ATACR

Shooting at dusk or dawn is one thing, and a good objective lens and proper positioning can probably ensure a good shot. This scope takes that to another level by providing clarity and quality that’s almost unmatched.

It’s an FFP gun which is good news for snipers already. The second piece of good news is that it uses a throw lever so you can easily switch between the twenty different magnification settings with ease. NightForce uses something known as an Xtremespeed thread that ensures you can also make quick diopter adjustments. It’s great for both target shooting and long distance hunting.

The scope uses ED optic glass which provides an incredible level of clarity and allows a large amount of light to be absorbed. It also features a bunch of different reticles, all of which have either a mil or MOA guide on them so you can be aware of adjustments that you’ll have to make for wind/environment. Some are more complicated and can even assist you in putting rounds on your target.

Overall this is a great gun for long-distance shots.

Selected For You:  Best Rifle Scopes Reviews of 2018 & Buying Guide

Pros

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    Great assortment of reticles with different specs for different situations
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    Uses ED optic glass for clarity and light
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    Easily use a throw lever to switch between magnification
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    Uses LightSpeed’s Xtremespeed thread for diopter adjustments

Cons

  • Not actually great in the night as the name suggests

3. US Optics ER-25 Mil GAP FFP Illuminated Reticle 5-25x58mm Rifle Scope Review

US Optics ER-25

US Optics ER-25

This scope is a prime example of the phrase, “getting your money’s worth.” It’s by no means cheap (or even reasonably affordable for the average Joe) but if you have the coin, this is a great scope.

It’s specifically designed to shoot targets over two thousand meters away and they had to develop the gun using special engineering techniques to make this palatable. The different zoom levels can be switched between flawlessly without compensating the quality of your visuals, and the optic itself is illuminated for dark situations and comes with 12 different levels of adjustment.

It’s a one-piece design made of aluminum so it’s super sturdy and you don’t have to worry about parts separating. It’s fog resistant, waterproof and shockproof so you have no worries about the elements getting the best of you.

This is an incredibly strong, powerful scope that won’t disappoint you. (And for three grand, it had better not!)

Pros

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    Incredibly tough design
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    Specially engineered to shoot over 2000 meters
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    12 setting illuminated reticle to compensate for light
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    One piece scope
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    Weather resistant and shockproof

Cons

  • Very very expensive

4. Swarovski X5 3.5-18×50 – BRM Review

Swarovski X5

Swarovski X5

This gun – also known as the Long Range Master – is ideal for snipers. It magnifies only 3.5-18 so it can also be used at close range if necessary. It’s got a 50mm scope which allows the shooter to mount it in a different place which can provide better angles for targeting.

This thing’s entirely waterproof and can be completely submerged without breaking down. It also comes with an assortment of reticles, each coming with at least some sort of wind or elevation compensation. This scope can be used in a huge number of different situations.

It also provides an unmatched level of light transmission so you can see your target and the surrounding environment in almost complete clarity.

Pros

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    Can be used at short range
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    Submersible
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    Weather resistant
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    Huge amount of light transmission

Cons

  • Shortest magnification of these scopes

So, which is the best?

If you’re purely planning to be sniping, the first contender – the Leupold Waterproof Scope – is going to be your best bet.

At a reasonable price, this scope provides the most incredible range of magnification out of any of the scopes that we’ve seen. It does this without compromising quality of image and while providing a very effective reticle with compensation for both elevation and wind.

It’s made of a very durable material and promises to last you for a long time, despite different weather conditions, even while withstanding the powerful kickback from a ton of shots.